Friday, October 18, 2013

The Political Consequence of Natural Hair at SIUE

Naturals talking hair

This current "natural hair movement" is one of the more politically consequential happenings at SIUE at least among black folks, since I've been here. It's "political" in the sense that you have groups of young sisters talking about natural hair, self-image, history, standards of beauty, and progressive models and transformation; you have them organizing events and activities; and you have them engaging deeply in modes of technology to learn and share ideas.

Sure, sisters with naturals have been around for decades, centuries in fact. But close observers recognize that something else is taking place in this moment. I mean, the growth of "YouTube naturals" as they are called, or the whole hair diaries on Instagram and Pinterest, and the blogs speak to something contemporary and hi-tech about this incarnation of discussions with naturals. The science of it all with people talking and writing about and people even producing natural hair products.

A couple of years ago, I worked with some of the sisters in my circle to organize some public exhibits concerning natural hair on campus. Those were graduate students leading the charge. Later, a few undergraduates approached me and asked me to serve as the adviser for the natural hair club that they were starting. And then here now, for the last several months, our contributing writer Briana Whiteside has been writing about her own big chop and natural hair journey.

The inter-generational nature of the natural hair discussions and practices really stand out and give it added weight in my mind. There are no protests and deliberately public statements, but what we're witnessing with natural hair talk and acts among the young sisters stands out in comparison to various other organizing that does not seem to span as wide and as long across groupings of African American students who arrived at the university during the last 10 years.

Style and Knowledge

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